Are you one of the (scientifically identified) 6 million people who avoids shredding your sensitive documents because of your home shredder? 5.9 million of that number have actually burned up at least one home shredder at some point. 5.8 million have burned up more than one. I might have made those numbers up. It might be twice that high.
Most families and home-based businesses should own a cross-cut personal shredder. In the picture above, you see strip shredding, which is not good. You actually want your shredder to produce confetti.It’s messy, but much more secure, and that’s the whole reason you are shredding…to protect your identity. Otherwise, why do it?
Home paper shredders are actually very easy to keep in good shape. Here’s help on how to use your home paper shredder- and not burn up your shredder while using it. Bottle that frustration for when you really need it, like parking at Whole Foods.
I tend to do a large batch of shredding every April or May, right after taxes are filed. By that time I know what’s not needed for taxes, and the healthcare reimbursement account has been fully paid out from last year, so lots of our medical receipts can go, then, too. I love my shredder, purchased last year, which allows me to drop in a batch and walk away, while it keeps shredding. You can read more about the Stack and Shred home paper shredder here.
Buy the best home or small business shredder you can afford, without breaking the bank. You can find many options around $50. If you work from home or like to shred a lot, you might need a higher capacity machine costing between $50 and $200.
Know your sheet capacity. If the shredder says, “Max. 8 Sheets,” it really means 4-6 sheets of regular copy paper at a time. It does not allow for heavier paper, plastic, brochures, or folded items. Don’t overtax it.
Don’t try to shred everything just because it has your name or address on it. Information anyone can get from a quick Google search or from the phone book doesn’t need to be shredded, which includes your address. However, anything with healthcare or financial account numbers on them (like your bank statements and brokerage accounts) should be shredded. Your grocery store junk mail, just because you may have a frequent shopper club number there, is not sensitive information. Really, it’s not. Nor are most of your utility bills, believe it or not. Don’t make your little household shredder work harder than it needs to. Use it only for what needs to be shredded.
If the shredder is usually unplugged for safety or other reasons (keep those kiddos away!), then you’ll probably be batch shredding. Your machine will only shred for 15-20 minutes before it overheats. Just give it a rest, and finish your batch another day, or after the machine has had a chance to cool down.
Better yet, stop when you hear the motor or the blades laboring. That “rrr…rrr…rrr” sound means you are either feeding it too much paper at once, or the machine needs a break.
Occasionally, give your shredder a little treat and lubricate the cutting blades. You can purchase special lubrication sheets or shredder oil for this purpose. I’ve used my sewing machine oil with good results. You only need to do this a few times a year, not every time you shred a batch.
Don’t keep shredding if the bin is full. The already-shredded paper underneath will jam up against the rotating blades, overheating the shredder faster than needed. Empty the bin often, yes, even more often than you think it needs emptying.
Unless your shredder specifically allows for it, don’t feed plastics through the machine. They tend to gunk up the blades. I’ve had to surgically remove hunks of melted plastic from many shredders. If your shredder is equipped to shred credit cards and/or computer disks, empty the basket of paper before shredding these items. The paper is recyclable with household recycles in most places. The disks and credit cards aren’t. Throw plastic bits out in the trash separately from the paper.
If you follow these guidelines, your home shredder should do the job for many years. However, if you regularly have more than 2 shopping bags full of material to shred, you can search for free or low-cost community shredding events in your area. Just google “shred events” and your city, zip code, or region. You can find a current list of shredding events in the greater Philadelphia region here.
This article was originally published on NAPO-GPC.